How To Design a Crazy-Good Tech Startup Pitch That Wows VC’s

We get it.

You’re a brand new tech startup, ready to take the world by storm; you’re convinced that your new and innovative product or service is going to change the world and inspire humanity. There’s just one little problem: funding.

  1. More Than Just a Presentation
  2. Define Venture Capital
  3. A Tech Startup Funding Deck
  4. How to Create a VC Pitch Deck
  5. What Should Your Pitch Deck Include
  6. Getting Your Tech Startup Funded
  7. The Basic Design Do’s and Don’ts
  8. Present a Brand as Well as an Idea
    1. Tell a Story
  9. Battle of the Brands
  10. What Does a “Good Design” Actually Mean?
  11. Summary

Whilst it seems counter-intuitive, there’s one thing that’s true to any business or startup. That is you need money in order to make money. Without the necessary funding it will be extremely difficult to market yourself, create mock-ups or test products, or even get your first sale through the door. This is why it’s endlessly important to obtain some kind of financial assistance to help your brand.

If there’s one way to really pitch your tech startup successfully to larger businesses or investors, it’s via a well-designed VC funding deck.

More Than Just a Presentation

Stars, space and nebula

A clever design is absolutely crucial when it comes to marketing and selling your product or service; this applies to both your funding pitch as well as whatever it is that you sell. In fact, a smartly-designed funding deck might even be more important than the product itself!

Potential investors will not only be considering your business. There will be countless other brands asking for financial support and fighting to be seen, and investors will only ever see you as a product – something to make them more money.

So, how do you make sure that your startup gets seen amongst an ocean of similar tech services? Easy – a killer design.

We’ve all been there: choosing one product over another simply because it has a better design. or a more interesting “story to tell”. Half of our brain is devoted to processing visual information, and this simple implication can be something that YOU can utilize for your own personal advantage. Especially  if you have a clear goal that you’d like to achieve.

Let’s have a look at some sure-fire ways that you can design a great VC funding deck for your tech startup:

Venture Capital

Venture Capitalist Funding for Tech Startups

Before we can consider how to design a standout VC funding deck, it’s important to properly understand the terminology used. For example – what even is a funding deck? And what does VC even mean?

Let’s start with the latter question: VC stands for ‘venture capital’. A term that I’m sure you’re all at least somewhat familiar with. If not, you certainly will be by the end of this article!

Venture capital simply refers to financing provided to startup companies from investors that believe them to have long-term growth potential. You might have even heard certain investors referred to as ‘venture capitalists’.

It’s important to remember that VC is NOT just free money, and investors will need to believe that your company is likely to succeed as, at the end of the day, your brand or product is only an investment for them to earn more money in the long run. This is why it’s important to make sure that your pitch is well designed, as it can instil an additional layer of security or trust with a potential investor!

The term ‘capital’ implies that these investments must be in monetary form, but this is not always the case; VC can also be provided in the form of professional expertise.

Investopedia has a very eye-opening and in-depth article on the concept of venture capitalism.

Tech Startup Funding Deck

Now that we’ve got VC out of the way, we can move on to the more interesting stuff: funding decks.

A funding deck, often referred to as a pitch deck, is essentially just a presentation shown to potential investors that shows off what your business does, and why someone should provide the VC that you need to get your startup off the ground.

It’s important for your funding deck to not only showcase an outline of your product or service, but to convince investors that they NEED to buy into whatever you’re offering. You need to make sure that your funding deck definitively shows off how and why your startup is going to make the investor more money, and why it will become a sustainable long term growth project.

The smarter you are with the design of your pitch deck, the more successful you are likely to be, and it could be the deciding factor in the success of your startup!

How to Create a VC Pitch Deck

Creating a tech startup pitch deck

On to the most important part: how to actually create a VC pitch deck. Whilst the design is integral to your success, you need to learn to walk before you can run!

At its core, a pitch deck is just a presentation that outlines what your product is, and how it will help your target demographic. You should put it together with the intention of selling your idea, with a major focus on how you intend to grow.

There are plenty of services that will help you put your pitch presentation together; from PowerPoint to Prezi. There is no industry standard software, though you do need to make sure that your presentation is compatible with the systems used by your potential venture capitalist.

The most effective pitch presentations are clear, concise and simple. It is essential that they are easy to read, follow and understand whilst gripping the audience’s attention and encouraging their interest. As covered by Forbes, the three keys to powerful pitch decks are:

  • It must be clear and Simple
  • Easy to Act on
  • Compelling

Research has shown that most funding decks are 19 slides or less, so you should always aim to work within this limit.

What Should Your Pitch Deck Include?

Tech startup writing funding deck checklist

In order to win over the support from your investor, your pitch deck must outline a specific problem, and how your startup is going to solve it.

Ask yourself (and answer!):

  • Who is this startup for?
  • What problem does it solve?
  • How does it solve the problem?
  • Why is it better than the other startups?
  • Why is it going to be successful?

It is extremely important to make sure the ’problem’ is relatable enough to generate a large need in an unsaturated market, and that it isn’t too niche that you’re unlikely to sell many units. To put it simply: find a gap in your chosen market and fill it!

An investor is much more likely to show an interest in what you have to offer if they can relate to the problem it solves, or if it shows a promising potential for growth. As for the solution, you need to demonstrate why funding is going to benefit you and how it will impact your growth. For example, you know that your product is going to work anyway – why does your tech startup need funding? How will funding increase your output? This is called scalability, and a successful pitch will perfectly represent the scalability of your startup. More money = more output = more money.

Let’s have a look at some essential do’s and don’ts of creating a massively successful funding deck:

Do:

  • Be clear and concise
  • Directly define the problem and how you will solve it
  • Know your audience and target market
  • Have a clear business plan and direction
  • Demonstrate scalability
  • Show metrics to show the success of your product
  • Share testimonials
  • Show the current growth rate of your startup
  • Be original in both execution and direction
  • Recognise your competition and determine why you’re a better solution
  • Use visuals, such as diagrams
  • Showcase your financial and personal business goals

Don’t:

  • Be cocky
  • Assume your success
  • Count your chickens before they’ve hatched
  • Make blanket statements
  • Assume that you’re the ‘first’
  • Ask for a specific amount (instead, provide a range – it will give you more opportunity!)

Finally, let’s have a look at some slide ideas to get this ball rolling:

  • The Problem
  • The Solution
  • Your Product
  • The Market
  • Growth So Far
  • Growth Plans
  • Your Team – (who’s who and why have you chosen them?)
  • The Competition
  • What Resources Do You Need?

Obviously, these are only suggestions and it’s important to make sure that you are as original as possible!

Getting Your Tech Startup Funded

Rocket ship launching

Now that we’ve touched on how your brain can use visual cues to impact purchases, we want to point out the importance of this “visual aid” on a bigger scale: in particular, when talking about tech startups.

Succeeding in the tech world is anything but an easy task. Instead, it is more like a road paved with challenges and the most important one is winning a startup pitch deck and getting that all-important funding.

Pitching your idea in a visually appealing and organized manner to potential venture capitalists opens more opportunities for you to earn the essential funds needed in order to accelerate your tech startup’s growth. If you think pitch deck is a simple PowerPoint/Keynote/Prezi presentation with twenty slides and a plain theme you are wrong in so many ways.

A well-designed pitch deck will allow you to get the attention of investors and tempt them to take action. The problem is understanding what makes a good design, and what will catch the attention of those all-important investors that you’re so eager to impress?

Well – we’ve provided the tools you need to understand how to not only build the perfect pitch deck, but how to make sure the design is impeccable too.

The Basic Design Do’s and Don’ts

As we’ve mentioned above, the content placed throughout your tech startups funding deck should be easy to understand, create trust, and show growth traction, or the potential to be profitable in the long run.

In terms of design, the pitch deck should get your message across in a creative, conceptual, and most importantly, memorable way. In translation, this means that one glance at a single slide should be enough to grasp the idea behind it.

Another important feature of any successful pitch is to showcase no more than one idea per slide. One headline, one additional sentence to complement your headline, and one image or diagram per slide – otherwise, you could run the risk of your pitch becoming muddled and difficult to follow.

As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t rely on words to get your point across and should aim for an average of around 20 words per slide. You don’t want your audience reading: instead, you want them to listen to you, distractionfree. The design of each slide should be just a visual aid to what you say, providing helpful diagrams or product research.

Focus on a simple yet striking layout and sentences written with a large, easy to read font, a limited number of bullet-points, and picture-rich presentation delivered in approximately 10 to 19 slides.

Present a Brand as Well as an Idea

Hand holding a lightbulb

Above, you’ll find the ‘essentials’ of a quality pitch deck – now let’s have a look at some of the more profound design elements that reflect your tech startup’s brand, ideals and vision.

If you haven’t yet developed your brand then we suggest downloading our FREE ebook “How To Launch An Awesome Tech Brand”. Here we give you the tools to create your own future-thinking tech brand that stands out.

Instead of presenting a simple idea and a must-have revolutionizing tech product or service, you should also focus on presenting the personality of the business, the people involved, and your vision as a founder. This will demonstrate that you value not only design and creativity but integrity and pride too; this is a great way to prove to your audience that you care about your startup, business and user base and are fighting for a cause. Your cause is the clincher here and will be a sure-fire way to touch your audience (and subsequently your customers) on a deep and meaningful level.

Tell a Story

Enchanted brand story

Designing a pitch deck which will stand from the legions of other companies aiming to be just as successful includes creating an engaging story about how it all started, and where your passion comes from.

Tell an exciting origin story of your tech startup and play to both logic and emotion, because investors will take the two of them into equal consideration before making any decisions. Define why your product is the right answer as well as the only logical solution, and make sure that you provide concrete evidence to any statement you make whilst displaying well researched statistics that showcase exactly how your product will help.

Logic plays an important role in any funding deck, though you should aim to include emotional content that will play to the audience’s heart. For example, you can use your business’ story to ‘tug on the heartstrings’ of potential investors, and really make them want to see you succeed. You essentially want to replicate the positive effects of a good sob story on a certain talent show!

Demonstrate what the company means to you and why you feel that it’s important to succeed, alongside any hard evidence of potential growth and the impact your tech will have on the world to make the most from both a logical and emotional standpoint.

Battle of the Brands

Proper branding is not only having a name, logo and an advertising campaign; it’s all about having a personality, core values, and a style. Branding is also about creating a stable emotional connection and securing loyalty between your startup and your potential customers, and about narrowing down your audience to a specific target demographic.

It’s imperative that every business should know EXACTLY who their target audience is, as it allows them to refine both their product and servicep to maximise the potential growth of your startup. You should demonstrate research into this throughout your pitch: who is your demographic, how will you cater directly to them (including marketing) and why will they choose your brand over others.

In fact, that’s a question you can ask yourself right now! Why do you prefer one brand over another very similar one. Alternatively, what makes one more successful for the other?

Read our article on why branding is essential for your tech startup for more info.

What Does a “Good Design” Actually Mean?

Besides telling your story when talking about branding, you should also focus on maintaining a high quality and attractive design that highlights the appeal of your brand.

A good, high impact design is all about spreading your message and expressing the desired outcome through visual communication. Pin-point and articulate the problem you are dedicated to solving. Do it in a unique, creative way with related images and easy-to-understand metrics.

You should utilise a simple layout. Show only the most important information in a clear and easy to read manner. Don’t let your slides become messy or difficult to understand. Make sure the colour scheme you use complements both the content and theme of your presentation.

In order to truly reach out to and inspire potential investors to buy into your product, think about visualizing emotions. Photography and illustrations, when used correctly and appropriately, can be incredibly powerful.

Visual examples can provide an insight into your cause, or could trigger an emotional response that could lead to empathy.

So they say: a picture is worth a thousand words!

To Summarise

You might be feeling overwhelmed or anxious about designing your tech startup’s pitch deck. It can be a hugely imposing, stressful and challenging task.

The good news is that no matter how lost you feel, you’re not alone! Think about it: Netflix, Spotify, Dropbox, even Google used to be a new tech startup looking to secure funding. They all had an incredible idea that they were able to effectively pitch as a world-changing idea.Now some of the most renowned companies in the entire world.

Focus on your business goals. Show investors that you have a clear and concise idea which will turn into an exceptional reliable brand and keep on earning money. Keep it short, simple, and honest; really try to persuade your future investors that your idea will shape the new digital landscape.

Whatever happens, as long as you have a great idea and you really believe in yourself, you’ll find success. It won’t be easy, but it will be immensely rewarding!

What are you waiting for? Get out there and secure some funding!

A Comprehensive Guide to Colour Theory and Colour Psychology

This post is a comprehensive breakdown on colour theory. Pulled together from the web, we feel this is the best guide out there. Enjoy!

  1. Colour Wheel
  2. Hue, saturation, and brightness
  3. Colour Combinations/Harmonies
  4. Colour Context
  5. Colour Psychology

What is the Colour Wheel?

Colour theory starts with the colour wheel which was invented by Isaac Newton 1666. It’s kind of what it sounds like, a wheel of colour. What you can do with this wheel is both an art and a science and can be used to find out what colours work well together in theory. Understanding this together with the emotions they convey is crucial if you are building a brand.

The two types of colour wheels in colour theory are RGB and RYB (CMYK). CMYK is useful for artists as mixing colours uses subtractive colour mixing model and it’s used on anything physical like posters and paper. RGB is what you are looking at now and used by mixing light – additive colour mixing model.

A colour wheel is made up of twelve colours (red, orange, yellow, chartreuse green, green, spring green, cyan, azure, blue, violet, magenta and rose) and can be divided into three different colour groups.

Image result for colour wheel
Colour wheel

The 3 Primary Colours

Primary colours are Red, Yellow and Blue and these colours can be mixed together to create white. Three pigment colours that cannot be mixed or formed by any combination of other colours and all other colours are derived from these 3 hues.

Primary colours

The 3 Secondary Colours

Secondary colours are a result of mixing two primary colours together. When using subtractive and the RYB colour wheel you will get purple (red mixed with blue), orange (red mixed with yellow), and green (yellow mixed with blue). The classics.

Secondary Colours

Tertiary Colours

Tertiary colours are created by mixing a secondary colour with a primary these are orange, chartreuse green, spring green, azure, violet and rose.

In the RYB color wheel, the tertiary colors are red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.

Tertiary colours in RYB colour wheel

Warm and Cool Colours in the Colour Wheel

The colour wheel can be divided to create warm or cool colours (temperature). In colour theory, warm colors (red through to yellow) are said to bring to mind happiness, optimism and energy, while cool colors (blue to green and purple) are associated with serenity and isolation.

Warm & cold colours

Introducing Hue, Saturation and Brightness

HSB (or HSL) stands for Hue, Saturation (Chroma) and Brightness (Luminosity). Hue is the actual colour on the colour wheel. Brightness refers to how much white (or black) is mixed in the colour while Saturation indicates the amount of grey or purity in a colour. We can also use this same concept to similarly describe…

Shade, Tint and Tone

Shade is created when you add black to the base hue. This darkens the colour and tend to be richer, darker and often more intense than the original hue.

Tint is created when you add white to the base hue. This makes it lighter and desaturates the hue and makes it less intense but also makes colours calmer and quiet.

When you add both black and white (grey) to a base hue, this is known as Tone. They appear less saturated or intense and often more closely resemble real-life colour.

Shade, tints, tones
Shade/tint/tone

Useful Colour Combinations/Harmonies

Now with the colour wheel out the way, let’s talk about how we can use colour theory to find harmonious colours.

Complimentary

Complimentary colours are colours that exist at opposite ends of the colour wheel. These colours are high impact, vibrant and contrast with each other very well. They must be used carefully so they are not jarring. Contrasting colours can help imagery pop and are a good idea for logos or identities but are not advisable for text and typography.

Complimentary colours

Monochromatic

Monochromatic colours are three shades – tones and tints of one base hue. They are a much more subtle colour combination and can feel calm and harmonious when used.

Monochromatic

Analogous

Three colours that are side by side on the colour wheel are called analogous and are often found in nature. These colours have a high impact but should be used wisely as they can be overpowering. You should use one dominant colour from this selection while the other two should be used as accents. Analogous colours can be used effectively on websites as it can draw the eye so that a user knows where to take action.

Triadic

Triadic colours are three colours that are evenly spaced on the colour wheel and are bright and dynamic. They can create contrast and harmony simultaneously so can be very effective but once again, let one of these colours dominate and use the others as accents.

Triadic colours

Rectangle (Tetradic)

Tetradic colours are four colours evenly spaced on the colour wheel with two complimentary squares (Double-Complementary Relationship). They are quite bold and can offer a lot of variations. Letting one colour remain dominant is key here. You should be aware of cold and warm colours so that correct grouping can be established.

Tetradic colours

What is Colour Context

Another key thing to note is how colours behave in relation to others. Two of the same colours used in slightly different ways can create different contrasting effects and this is called simultaneous contrast. This is at its most powerful when the colours are complementary colours. Michel Chevreul studied the idea that an object of any given colour will cast a shadow tinged with that of its complementary colour and there are several effects of colour context.

Lightness

The most drastic and obvious effect of simultaneous contrast is the apparent shift in brightness. If you take two squares of the same hue and surround it with a lighter or darker shade, the square surrounded by the darker shade will appear lighter and the square surrounded by the lighter shade will appear darker.

color shift in a simultaneous lightness contrast, all large and small squares have the same hue and chroma

Chroma

Similarly, chroma can apparently be affected by having two squares of the same hue surrounded by a desaturated and an increased saturation of that hue. The colour on the right seems duller against the high contrast and reversely the colour on the left seems extreme opposite. This is because value and chroma are often confused in colour perception.

all large and small squares have the same hue and lightness

Crispening Effect

Crispening effect is the apparent shift in the contrast between two colours of similar lightness while surrounded by a colour of a different colour lightness.


the crispening effect

Colour context source: http://facweb.cs.depaul.edu/sgrais/color_context.htm

Colour Psychology and Its Affect On Us

Colour can play to our stereotypical view of the world and the way we understand it. Given this, we can take a look at the different colours and what they could mean to an observer of your brand. Colour psychology can be split up into warm, cool and neutral colours.

These explanations are very subjective though and it can vary because of someones past experiences or cultural differences so take with a pinch of salt and do your research.

Warm Colours

Warm colours often evoke feelings of happiness, optimism and energy however, yellow and orange can also slightly irritate the eyes and red can increase a person’s appetite.

Red

Red is warm and dynamic and can (apparently) invoke hunger. It can also be associated with passion, love, anger and danger. Red is playful, modern and exciting but used as an accent as it can be quite tiring to look at.

Orange

Orange can be associated with happiness. It still has elements of energy and is playful but is not overpowering like red.

Headspace is a meditation app and uses the vitality and hapiness of orange in their logo

Yellow

Happiness, friendship, energy and hope. A brand using yellow gives a sense of optimism and cheerfulness but a word of warning it can also be tiring to look at so use sparingly.

Image result for biotech logo
Aranya logo gives a sense of happiness and optimism

Cool Colours

Cool colours are usually calming and soothing but can also express sadness and are often chosen by health and security sectors.

Green

Green is, of course, associated with wealth, nature and health. It’s also very easy on the eyes and because of its association with nature, green can depict growth, prosperity and safety.

Image result for biotech logo
Cannasphere uses green for its obvious natural conotations

Blue

Blue apparently induces chemical reactions in the body that are calming so is great for calm and spiritual brands. Dark blues feel more corporate and professional but can also feel cold while light blue is relaxed and friendly. Blue is said to be trustworthy and mature.

Image result for biotech logo
Nascent are focused on the development and delivery of human antibodies and cytokine responses for the treatment of cancer

Purple

Purple can be associated with royalty, wealth, sophistication and authority. It can be soothing and calming being a colder colour but is also perceived to be luxurious. It’s also commonly associated with mystery and romance and it’s also not overly feminine.

Neutral Colours

Neutral colours work great as background colours and include black, grey, white, tan and brown.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article about colour theory. It was originally part of this article what colour to use for you biotech branding but was broken out for readability. If you want to know more, check that out.

The Death of Branding and the advent of the Personal Brand – by a Branding Agency

Yes, it’s true. Branding has been in ill-health for a while and now we have finally seen it’s demise. You probably thought that this was some sort of click-bait title but I truly think we are coming to an end to corporate branding. Here’s why.

With the introduction of Instagram, we’ve seen an influx of “influencers”. The entrepreneurs of the 21st century otherwise known as “solopreneurs“. These individuals have remarkable power to engage, entertain and ultimately influence the behaviours of hundreds of thousands of people with a single post and zero budget. More specifically, they influence the buying behaviours of those hundreds of thousands of people. It’s marketing in its finest form, something we could have only dreamed of 15 years ago but how do they achieve this? Personal branding.

Personal branding is something we’ve only really recognised in the last five years or so although (if that) although, It’s existed for many more. Take for example your favourite band when you were young. Didn’t you find yourself wanting the same clothes as them? The same hairstyle? Didn’t you find yourself wanting the same PERSONALITY as them?! This may have largely had to do with the music they were producing but It was also the narrow view of their personalites that were presented to you on MTV. They are, of course, very complex individuals but the behaviours they were best known for were always captured and this, unbeknown to them, led to their own personal brand being developed and scripted by their observers and people struck a chord with that… Pun not intended.

Fast forward to now and the same idea that a person can convince you to buy the same things they buy, wear the same things they wear and do the same things they do has been stripped away from any sort of talent and laid bare on social media leaving essentially just a personality. The impact of this has naturally made its way to the mainstream who are trying to harness the secrets of the power that it possesses.

I’m not really sure this was intentional though. I think these people did what they loved. They reviewed technology, they travelled the world, they gave an insight into their lives. It was the platforms that glamorised this stuff and made it feel somewhat special or unique. I think this stuff as always happened. It was just never possible to broadcast it so freely and easily. Granted, the first of these sorts of channels were early adopters of the technology and probably didn’t see it coming but after the impact took wind, we couldn’t help but dissect the formula of why it was so powerful.

Branding is the ability to enter the hearts and minds of a consumer. This results in price-insensitivity and a faith that is only seen in religion and cults. It’s only fair to compare this when individuals behave in the same way when it comes to the Instagram accounts of individuals and because this brand-like behaviour is seen to revolve around just a person, personal branding is born.

Interestingly, the techniques are exactly the same to establish and present a personal brand as it is to establish a corporate brand. The first being positioning. You need to occupy a space in the market where no-one else can. There are many ways to do this but you need to your own twist on things. Let’s take tech reviews as an example. There are many many tech reviewers in existence but what do you bring that’s different. Is it the manner in which you present it? Is it the particular things you focus on? The good thing is that whatever you think is different is actually pretty common, it’s just that you need to make sure no-one in the marketplace is doing that same thing in the way you do it. You need to apply that same concept to your ‘personality’. It’s important to remember though, this isn’t your whole personality, it’s just a narrow sub-set that you promote.

Once you’ve positioned yourself, you then need a set of values that you can express. Again, you are a very complex individual but it’s the values that you keep consistent in your output that is going to further position you in a unique field but also and build that brand awareness, that loyalty through consistency. As long as what you produce aligns with these values, you dig deeper into the hearts and minds of those that stumble across your output.

These are the same excercises we run in our brand strategy workshops. You can read about many ways you can build a brand but when it’s when you combine this with your product or service is when this becomes financially rewarding.

I know what you will think, “but I don’t want to be a social influencer!”. Maybe you don’t, but it’s these concepts and ideas we can harness and apply to our selves that will make the difference. We’ve started to realise, people don’t buy what you do, they buy other people so if you can build a personality that is consistent and accessible, then those followers will inevitably buy whatever you are making money from (hopefully your product or service). They also build trust in you and what you do, so as with any brand, it’s the long-term effects that see ROI. When was the last time you made a sale over the telephone? It’s much more effective to make a sale face-to-face and if they already have access to your personality you’re already lowering buyer resistance and they already feel like they know you.

In summary, I think we need to focus on producing content for our business less and produce content on ourselves more. Give people a subset of your personality that’s relevant to your product or service using the platforms available and do it in a way where you are providing value to them. Present it on the platform that your customer is most likely to be on (another aspect of building a brand), but keep it consistent. It doesn’t need to lie. It just needs to be consistent. This will naturally grow a following and will, in time, convert as you will attract people that are into what you do. Their perceived value of your services will grow because social-proof is a thing and you can inevitably end up charging more as you have price-insensitivity on your side.

I honestly can see a future where more emphasis and marketing money is spent on the individuals and employees of a company to promote and do things based on their personal brand rather than traditional methods. As long as what they are doing are in some way linked to the business.


Bring strategic thinking to your brand

Jupiter and the Giraffe describe themselves as a brand strategy and design agency, but what does this mean? More specifically the term “agency” and how does it differ to freelancers?

You can find freelancers on websites like Upwork and Fiverr. These sites are a great place to find creatives and technical individuals to help you build what you want. Want a new logo? Someone on Fiverr will create you one for your up and coming business. Need a new website? Upwork’s got you covered. Although you may get exactly what you’re looking for, there’s one huge thing that individuals behind the computer screen lack. Strategic thinking.

I’m not calling these creatives stupid and it’s not that these people can’t think, it’s that they don’t need to in this context. It’s just not what they are getting paid to do. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr are all about getting work done for cheap but what’s the cost? Freelancers thrive as individuals on these platforms because a freelancer can be a cog in a machine. There’s normally someone above them like an analyst or a creative lead that tells them exactly what to create. The huge thing missing here though is “why” they are creating something and some creatives are happy not knowing the why. Just tell them what to do and they’ll do it. This is great if you have an idea for a logo in your head and can picture bits of it but need a whizz at Photoshop to polish it up for you and refine a few creative decisions around your concept.

The problem here though is that there is no purpose or meaning to their ideas. As much as you might think creative assets like this need to look cool, there’s much more below the surface. It all starts with business goals and what you want to achieve as a company. More specifically, what is your brand and your company’s values. It’s great that you have an idea for a logo but to really get the most out of it, it needs to speak to the right people and ultimately convert from prospects to customers.

I won’t knock these websites. It’s so important to get your idea up there and testing assumptions on real people and so paying for a logo or website shouldn’t be at the top of your list, but when you start to make money and your idea becomes more refined and clear, it’s time you start to look at how you can target the right customer and speak to them in the right way.

It is possible for a freelancer to extract this information from you but that’s about it when it comes to a freelancer. It doesn’t end there for an agency. It’s really up to an agency to question your motives behind your design choices (if you have them) and actually create a strategy to execute that all falls in line with your business goals. We build your brand and define your strategy before we even touch design or development. We actually call this service Strategy. After the initial strategy session, we may then conduct a set of discovery workshops to further dig into your challenges and pain-points to develop our “why” when it comes to execution. You can read more about brand strategy in this blog.

When it finally comes to design or development – we’ve thought long and hard about what problems we are trying to solve – who your audience is and what appeals to them; how we speak to them; how do they typically engage with you; what they are looking to get out of you and the many ways they would look to do that. Only then is this likely to actually have a financial and beneficial impact on your business. We think. We measure twice and cut once, as the old saying goes.

I often ask what role is more important to the client – An amazing conductor (strategist) of mediocre creatives or a mediocre conductor and amazing creatives. Often they pick the former.

So if you’re ready for the next step, or you believe you’re just not speaking to the right people or you need to speak to a new set of people, then get in touch with us and lets do something awesome together.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Zeplin – A Developers Perspective

In my time helping Talk Talk Group build their CMS and front-end capabilities, I worked closely with their design and UX team. They introduced me to Zeplin. Zeplin is a tool we use heavily at Jupiter and the Giraffe and it’s essential in building pixel-perfect websites by allowing us to see exact HEX codes or pixel dimensions in our designs amongst many other things. Although primarily used by designers, developers can benefit immensely from it and I hope I can shed some light on how I use it.

Cost

Zeplin is a paid-for tool allowing you to host multiple website projects within a team but they do offer a free version in which you can host only one project. For developing businesses that normally have one project on the go at any one time this is fine but when you start to grow, you may need to dig into those wallets and fork out a little per month. As a developer though I don’t need to pay for this tool. I can view many sites and inspect the designs as much as I want. So there’s the first bonus.

Size/Spacing

When first looking at a design my number one need for Zeplin is spacings and dimensions. Whether I’m looking at images, icons, paddings or margins — with Zeplin I can hover over an element and see those dimensions. This is super useful. But what is even more useful is that if I click on an element to highlight it and then move my mouse to another element, I get the distance between the two objects too!

CSS

I love writing CSS/SASS. I take great pride in writing clean, maintainable CSS and I’m part of a few developers who’ve been around the block and understand the many little hacks, tips and tricks when writing CSS. But we all get lazy. Although I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, Zeplin allows me to inspect many different aspects of the CSS markup that makes the design. This can be pretty useful, especially when trying to match border-radius or box-shadow. More on the specifics below…

Colour

Was it #e6e6e6 or #f2f2f2?? Colour can be a tricky one at times especially with true toned displays and night modes. Often optical illusions can skew our perspective on colour. From the CSS panel, I can clearly see what HEX value to use and if you’re keeping track of your variables using SASS (which I highly recommend you do!), store that bad boy and name it sensibly to never have to worry about it again.

Fonts

Fonts are another gotcha in front-end development. Sometimes a design will use regular/bold/light versions of the same font. Zeplin allows you to inspect the actual font in the CSS inspector so no more guessing.

Extensions

Extensions can be added to a project to help you work in the technology that you’re using. SASS is a no-brainer on every project for me and you guessed it, there’s an extension for that. This extension allows for mixins and variables and all that SASS goodness. There’s even an HTML snippet generator from layer styles. The Extensions ecosystem just came out of BETA so great news all-round.

Exporting images

When you have an artboard open, at the top right of your window you’ll see some little tools. Clicking on what looks like a dagger, you are actually able to export individual or entire groupings of assets. If the designer has created these as SVG’s then you can even download the raw vector image (and that means icons!). Super handy rather than waiting for the designer to send them and I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you’ve been sent ‘all’ of the icons and then one is missing. This means you can go grab it yourself!

One extra wee tip is that you can even export them in the convention of your choosing. Click on the slider icon next to ‘Assets’ and there you’ll see an extra menu!

Styleguide

Possibly the most powerful feature of Zeplin can definitely only exist with a well-organised designer but it pays! Pressing CMD + G, you switch to the styleguide. Every website should have a styleguide for many, many reasons (maybe an idea for a future post) but here you can see every colour and font choice made in a design. Simply set all these as variables in your project and away you go. If your designer uses symbols, the styleguide even imports them as components meaning there’s a little context around elements and their relationships to each other. This is so helpful to me.

Communication

Overall, a bi-product of Zeplin is that it drastically speeds up communication. Sometimes it completely removes the need to wait for a designer to get back to me about a colour or font choice. Using the techniques described above I can easily recreate a design in no time at all. Although I don’t think it completely removes the need for a designer to be on hand for some clarification or if a developer needs to challenge something but it’s a great leap forward in workflow speed and accuracy of a design.

That’s about it from me and my usage of Zeplin. I can’t recommend this tool enough so go ahead and get your team using it!

If you’d like to hear more from me, give the article a few claps. You can follow me on most other things @fakesamgregory or if you’d like to check out my company Jupiter and the Giraffe, you can visit our website. If you’re interested in our nomadic business adventures, stay tuned to Tumbling Outwardscoming in 2019.

Cost

Zeplin is a paid-for tool allowing you to host multiple websites within a team but they do offer a free version in which you can host only one project. For developing businesses that normally have one project on at any one time this is fine but when you start to grow, you may need to dig in to those wallets and fork out a little per month. As a developer though I don’t need to pay for this tool. I can view many sites and inspect the designs as much as I want. So there’s the first bonus.

Size/Spacing

When first looking at a design my number one need for Zeplin is spacings and dimensions. Whether I’m looking at images, icons, paddings or margins – with Zeplin I can hover over an element and see those dimensions. This is super useful. But what is even more useful is that if I click on an element to highlight it and then move my mouse to another element, I get the distance between the two objects too!

zeplin dimensions
Highlighting one element and hovering another unleases more capability!

CSS

I love writing CSS/SASS. I take great pride in writing clean, maintainable CSS and being part of a few developers who’ve been around the block and understand the little hacks, tips and tricks when writing CSS that is widely supported in terms of browser support. But we all get lazy. Although I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, Zeplin allows me to inspect many different aspects of the CSS markup that makes the design. This can be pretty useful, especially when trying to match border-radius or box-shadow. More on the specifics below…

Colour

Was it #e6e6e6 or #f2f2f2?? Colour can be a tricky one at times especially with true toned displays and night modes. Often optical illusions can skew our perspective on colour. From the CSS panel I can clearly see what HEX value to use and if you’re keeping track of your variables using SASS (which I highly recommend you do!), store that badboy and name it sensibly to never have to worry about it again.

Fonts

Fonts are another gotcha in front-end development. Sometimes a design will use regular/bold/light versions of the same font. Zeplin allows you inspect the actual font in the CSS inspector so no more guessing.

Extensions

Extensions can be added to a project to help you work in the technology that you’re using. SASS is a no-brainer on every project for me and you guessed it, there’s an extension for that. This extension allows for mixins and variables and all that SASS goodness. There’s even an HTML snippet generator from layer styles. The Extensions ecosystem is in BETA so expect more from this soon!

Zeplin extensions

Exporting images

When you have an artboard open, at the top right of your window you’ll see some little tools. Clicking on what looks like a dagger, you are actually able to export individual or entire groupings of assets. If the designer has created these as SVG’s then you can even download the raw vector image (and that means icons!). Super handy rather than waiting for the designer to send them and I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you’ve been sent ‘all’ of the icons and then one is missing. This means you can go grab it yourself!

Export assets

One extra wee tip is that you can even export them in the convention of your choosing. Click on the slider icon next to ‘Assets’ and there you’ll see an extra menu!

Styleguide

Possibly the most powerful feature of Zeplin can definitely only exist with a well organised designer but it pays! Pressing CMD + G, you switch to the styleguide. Every website should have a styleguide for many, many reasons (maybe an idea for a future post) but here you can see every colour and font choice made in a design. Simply set all these as variables in your project and away you go. If your designer uses symbols, the styleguide even imports them as components meaning there’s a little context around elements and their relationships to each other. This is so helpful to me.

Communication

Overall, a bi-product of Zeplin is that it drastically speeds up communication. Sometimes it completely removes the need to wait for a designer to get back to me about a colour or font choice. Using the techniques described above I can easily recreate a design in no time at all. Although I don’t think it completely removes the need for a designer to be on hand for some clarification or if a developer needs to challenge something but it’s a great leap forward in workflow speed and accuracy of a design.

That’s about it from me and my usage of Zeplin. I can’t recommend this tool enough so go ahead and get your team using it!

If you’d like to hear more from me, give the article a few claps. You can follow me on most other things @fakesamgregory or if you’d like to checkout my company Jupiter and the Giraffe, you can visit our website. If you’re interested in our nomadic business adventures, stay tuned to Tumbling Outwards coming in 2019.

🚀🌈✨ Sketch tools and plugins for 2019

I’ve been using Sketch for a few years now so I thought it’d be a good idea to write about the plugins and tools that I’ve found particularly helpful in speeding up my workflow. Maybe you’re already using some of these tools, or maybe they’re brand new to you. Either way, I’d love to hear from you so feel free to comment and hopefully, you’ll find this helpful ✌

A bit of background from me — I’ve been working as a digital designer and developer (more on that later) for the past few years. I’ve also co-founded a nomadic branding agency called Jupiter and the Giraffe where I’m the creative lead. If you’d like to hear more about our nomadic adventures stay tuned at Tumbling Outwards.

Abstract

I’m fairly new to Abstract but boy oh boy — this has been a real game changer! I can’t imagine life without it. I came from a background in development so the concept of abstract makes perfect sense. It’s essentially versioning control like how developers use git — but for designers. If you’re not so well-versed -source control means that you can have a centralized location of your Sketch files to version, manage and collaborate on. No more saving new files with each iteration, just revert to a previous ‘commit’ and away you go! The paid version ($9 and $15 per collaborator, per month) gives you the ability to collaborate and review each other’s work towards the same file. Being solo, I get by on the free version but the option is there if you’re part of a team. Developers can also benefit in these paid tiers by being able to see CSS snippets for the design but I use another tool for that called…

Zeplin

Zeplin is a tool that I first came across as a developer which really empowered me to build a pixel perfect design without having to second-guess the designer’s intentions. I still use it as a designer but from the other side — to enable developers to be able to confidently build my designs with the accurate specs alongside code snippets. You can also integrate it with Slack so that the team can be notified when there’s a design update or change. As I’m always working between design and development teams this really is a godsend. It’s the ultimate collaboration tool and speaking first-hand with developers they agree with me. You only get one project on the free plan which is great if you’ve only one project on the go but if you have multiple projects – you’ll need to pay for a subscription. Zeplin integrates not only with Sketch but Adobe Photoshop, XD and Figma. If you’re working with websites or apps, start using this now!

Stark

Stark is a plugin I use for every project for checking that my designs are accessible and inclusive to all. It works by checking accessibility and contrast levels in line with AA and AAA WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines). Another cool feature is that you can imitate different types of colour blindness within your document allowing you to imagine your design through another perspective. I even tried this on a colleague of mine who is colourblind and it’s surprisingly accurate! I think it’s every designer’s responsibility to have their work accessible to all so this tool is a must for me.

Angle

Angle is a super cool plugin for showcasing your design work. You can place your screens into various perspective mockups across many different devices. This looks great for presenting your work in your portfolio or for those Behance case studies. The plugin is free alongside fifty free mockups but you get over two hundred devices to add to your global sketch library in the paid version.

Map generator

I’ve used the Map Generator frequently in recent projects. It allows you to design beautiful custom map interfaces with Google Maps & Mapbox simply and easily inside of sketch. It’s very useful and I’d highly recommend. It adds that personal touch to designs if you need to include the client’s location or store location.

Fontily

Fontily has come in useful on many occasions. It allows you to quickly find and replace fonts — as you would a variable in code. It lists all the fonts in the document and allows you to change selected ones. Change a font type and font weight and it will propagate out across your whole file. Magical. Great for experimenting quickly with different font sets across your entire designs and I think we’ve all been there where we’ve had to suddenly change a font stack. If this plugin wasn’t free it would’ve probably paid for itself several times over by now in the time it’s saved me.

Artboard manager

If you want to keep your artboards positioned neatly without having to think about it too much then this is the plugin for you. Artboard managerautomatically arranges the position of all your Artboards in your document, snapping them to rows & columns. Neat huh?

Runner

If you’re a keyboard shortcut fiend like me, Runner is an amazing plugin that allows you to run, install and manage plugins inside Sketch and run other Sketch commands from your keyboard. It’s Spotlight for Sketch if you like and a must have.

Prism

If you find yourself creating pattern libraries or brand guidelines regularly, Prism allows you to instantly generate a professional looking colour palette alongside the relevant hex and RGB codes based on your document colours. One limitation might be the style of the boxes is set and you don’t get control over how the colours are displayed but it does the job in a clean enough way that it’s never bothered me.

Looper

Create beautiful tessellations and geometric patterns from duplicating shapes and groups in endless variations. Looper is so much fun and I could spend hours making these. Think spirograph for adults.

Pixel Perfector

If you’re a bit OCD when it comes to pixel dimensions being consistent and rounded up to integer points then Pixel Perfect is a lifesaver. It helps you find pixel imperfect layers in your document and then select them and round them up to the nearest integer (or whatever you prescribe). It’ll help keep your documents cleaner and keep your design specs uniform.

So that’s all from me for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and look out for my next one on design trends for 2019!